BELLINGHAM - More people per capita bicycle to work in Bellingham than in Seattle. Officials expect even more bicyclists on the street after the City Council approves a new master plan with more than $20 million in bike-friendly road projects.
"Bellingham already has one of the highest bicycling and walking rates in the entire state," consultant Peter Lagerwey told the council on Monday, Aug. 11. "So when you implement this plan, you're just going to blow everybody off the charts and be No. 1."
Council members will have an opportunity to ask questions about the plan during a committee meeting on Sept. 8. Council approval should follow quickly after.
"Not that many years ago, people weren't even looking at bicycles ... as a main mode of transportation," council member Terry Bornemann said. "They've done a great job on this plan. I'm really impressed, and I'm really hopeful for where we're going with this."
Bellingham has a good base from which to grow bicycling into a more mainstream form of transportation. According to U.S. Census Bureau data collected from 2008 to 2012, 4 percent of the city's commuters ride bicycles to work.
In Seattle, 3.4 percent of commuters ride bikes, according to the census data. Washington state is above the national average, with 0.9 percent of commuters bicycling, compared to 0.6 percent in the U.S.
The bulk of the projects in the plan adds 42 miles of bike lanes and 52 miles of new bicycle boulevards to the city. The bicycle boulevards are low-traffic residential streets with pavement markings meant to tell drivers to watch for cyclists.
The top-priority project is a bike boulevard from a densely populated part of the Roosevelt neighborhood, under Interstate 5, to Bellingham High School and Whatcom Middle School.
In a survey conducted for the plan, a third of Bellingham's cyclists are confident enough to ride on any street. But 57 percent would ride more if safer routes were available.
"These are the people that you really need to build your network to," Lagerwey said.
The final draft of the bicycle master plan is at cob.org/bike.
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Reach Ralph Schwartz at email@example.com or 360-715-2289. Read his Politics blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhampolitics.